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Corrections Recognizes LGBTQ Pride Month

June 16, 2021

By Communications Office Department of Corrections
rainbow flag

(SatyaPrem, Pixabay)

June is LGBTQ Pride Month, which commemorates the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion 51 years ago. Most historians consider Stonewall Rebellion as the start of the movement of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) people. The event sparked a national firestorm and gave activism for LGBTQ+ rights new visibility.

While Pride Month is a time to recognize and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, we must also acknowledge hardships LGBTQ+ people continue to experience, decades later.

A 2021 Prison Policy Initiative analysis revealed that LGBTQ+ people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and are more likely to experience unequal treatment. A few findings in the report found:

  • LGBTQ+ individuals are 2.25 times as likely to be arrested than heterosexual people; lesbian and bisexual women are four (4) times more likely to be arrested than straight women and gay and bisexual men are 1.35 times as likely to be arrested than straight men.
  • LGBTQ+ people are incarcerated at three (3) times the rate of straight people.
  • LGBTQ+ people are sexually victimized at higher rates in prisons compared to straight people.
  • 20% of youth in the juvenile justice system are LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming.

We are proud of the proactive actions and supports to the incarcerated members of the LGBTQ+ community that the Department of Corrections (DOC)–as well as other entities of Washington state government–have taken.

Last year, the department published a new policy (pdf) related to housing and supervision of transgender, intersex, and/or gender non-conforming individuals. This policy was created to address safety concerns expressed to by LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. The department is committed to making sure all our facilities and worksites are places where all people, both staff and incarcerated, feel safe and included.

The department also takes care to ensure every employee receives annual training on the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to recognize signs of sexual abuse and understands how to report it in a safe and confidential way. We also have library of online resources available to employees and the public about PREA.

Support for LGBTQ+ Employees

Corrections also supports LGBTQ+ employees and allies. The agency regularly has recruitment booths at Pride events as part of its commitment to recruiting a diverse workforce. The pandemic has curtailed agency participation in large events like Seattle’s Pride event, but the department looks forward to resuming as soon as is safe to do so.

The state also has the Rainbow Alliance and Inclusion Network (RAIN) business resource group that involves state agencies in creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ employees and customers. Many of our employees serve on our state’s various business resource groups. Corrections is one of many agencies in Washington where people want to learn about LGBTQ+ issues, serve as allies and ensure LGBTQ+ people are not invisible.

Looking forward, more needs to be done

The struggles and triumphs of LGBTQ+ people are spotlighted in June, but the work to achieve equity continues year-round. As Pride month begins, we encourage you to explore some resources from state and national organizations about how to support LGBTQ+ people.

As an agency, we have embraced our responsibility to ensure all people are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, and hope everyone uses Pride Month as an opportunity to educate and explore ways we can do so individually, and as an agency.